Monday, 29 September 2008

Afternoon Tea

When I'm feeling bit unsettled, when home doesn't quite yet feel like home, there's nothing more certain to comfort me than food. Not just any food will do - no chocolate-fest or demolition of an entire packet of custard creams for me - I need something that will give me that halo of domesticity. This weekend I also felt it was important to make something that would ground me in the traditions of England and induce a warming sense of nostalgia. A quite literally fruitful cycle ride last weekend saw us returning with a pound of ripe blackberries and a dozen windfall apples that were quickly turned into 4 pots of Bramble and Apple Jelly.

A trip to meet some foodie friends in London's Borough Market provided an opportunity to smap up a tub of real Clotted Cream... Can you guess where this post is going?!

There was nothing for it, a clotted cream tea just had to be made. As an added bonus, we were visited at teatime on Saturday by two good friends, so we pretended to ourselves that we were making the tea for them, but we were fooling no one. We would have made it just for us. And eaten 2 scones each.

Amazingly, this was I think my first attempt at making scones. I suppose that I may have done so during 'Home Economics' at school once, but as I can't remember it they can't have been too good. My husband has always made the scones in our house, using the recipe from Delia's Complete Cookery Course, but this time I wanted to try my luck. I used a recipe taken from a 2004 Waitrose magazine, and was seriously impressed with the lightness of the resulting scones, which also rose impressively. The recipe can also be found here.

Just the sight of clotted cream brings back so many memories for me. At the end of every childhood holiday in Devon, we would stop at the village shop to buy a tub of local clotted cream to take home. My memory fails me at this point, I'm not quite sure how we ate it once home, but whether it was melting atop some hot fruit crumble, or sitting proudly upon a scone, I know that I have always loved it. Just looking at it is enough to make me salivate - the buttery colour is spectacular, and I love the way that it is so thick that it's quite hard work to lick it off the spoon. (To reassure you, I waited until our friends had left before I tried!)

Somehow the well-worn debate about whether the cream or the jam should be first onto the scone took up little of our afternoon. This was no time for talk. There was the serious business of reacquainting ourselves with the culinary traditions of our native land to be getting on with.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Back Home

So much seems to have happened since I last posted. We have called many places 'home' since we left Walcheren Loop - the Nottawasaga Hotel in Alliston, the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto...

New York City...

Cunard's Queen Mary 2...

but now home is a little more permanent - beautiful England. The experience of moving from country to country is a strange one. If I am feeling negative about it I find myself homesick for Canada, just as I sometimes felt homesickness for England while I was on the other side of the Atlantic. It can feel as though it's hard to settle properly in either place when you are yearning for the one that is 3000 miles away. However, in a more positive mood I just feel fortunate that I love both countries and had the opportunity to experience living abroad for 2 years.
Since landing in Southampton a month ago, we have toured the country from south to north, visiting family and familiarising ourselves once again with some of our favourite parts of the world. It's funny to see certain things with new eyes - not realising that we had actually missed them until we saw them again. These little pink and purple fuchsia for example. South Devon is full of them, and they sometimes make up large parts of the hedgerows.
And sheep! We rarely saw sheep in Ontario, but they are such an integral part of the English landscape. These sheep are fortunate enough to be grazing the gorgeous South Devon coast, but we were delighted to find that there is a large field of sheep next to the road where we now live in Buckinghamshire.
Heading north to Cumbria, we were reassured to find that in a fast-changing world, the Lake District remains the same (even down to the weather... but no, I'm being positive now!). People in Canada could never quite understand what I meant when I said that I missed the hills, but I don't think that landscape quite like this exists anywhere else. The Rockies are awe-inspiring, but there aren't many peaks there that can be conquered on a day-walk, or without some fairly specialist climbing equipment. The Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, what was our local area of hills, is beautiful, but England is unparallelled in its network of public footpaths, making the countryside so accessible to walkers.
The bracken-covered hillsides looked wonderful in the sun, and it's even easy to find beauty in the clouds, swirling over the high peaks and bringing dramatic changes of weather from one minute to the next. Just make sure you pack a waterproof jacket, and try not to worry about getting wet feet...

La'al Ratty, the miniature steam railway, once used to transport iron ore mined in the hills down to the coast, now used to transport tourists and tired, damp walkers. Always a highlight of our trips to Eskdale.
Back home in Bucks we are beginning to find our feet in a new area, greatly helped by having family living nearby. When the sun finally made a concerted effort and managed to stay out for a whole weekend we took the opportunity to explore the area on foot and by bike.

So, back in the land of thatched cottages and historic churches,

of blackberries in the hedgerows,

and where picnics are made up of delicious treats from my Uncle Michael's butchers shop in nearby Thame,

I think we're going to be very happy.